No. 1 Arizona basketball keeps rolling with blowout win over No. 23 Wisconsin

Dec 9, 2023, 3:32 PM | Updated: 4:49 pm

Oumar Ballo...

Oumar Ballo #11 of the Arizona Wildcats reacts with Keshad Johnson #16 after a dunk against the Wisconsin Badgers during the first half at McKale Center on December 09, 2023 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

Arizona Wildcats men’s basketball played its first game as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation on Saturday, and they sure looked like it.

The Wildcats defeated No. 23 Wisconsin 98-73 in Tucson to move to 8-0 this season.

All five starters finished with double-digit points, led by Pelle Larsson’s career-high 21 and Caleb Love’s 20. Larsson hit all six of his shots from the field, including four 3s.

Oumar Ballo added 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks, while Kylan Boswell provided 10 points and nine assists. Keshad Johnson rounded out the starting five with 11 points and nine boards.

Arizona shot 58% from the field, creating open looks at different levels. The Wildcats hit 12 3-pointers and scored 42 points in the paint against a Wisconsin team that entered the game allowing 63 points per contest. Arizona nearly scored 100 for the third time in five games.

The Wildcats assisted on 26 of 35 field goals with only seven turnovers. The Badgers had not allowed 98 points in a game since 1994, according to ESPN.

The score was tied 23-23 beyond the midway point of the first half, but Arizona went on a 20-2 run. The Wildcats’ lead jumped to 20 early in the second half and ballooned as large as 31.

“We kept our energy,” Larsson said. “I feel like when you play us, you’ve got to have your energy the whole game. As soon as you relax, we’re going to keep going.”

The 48-31 advantage was Arizona’s largest halftime lead over a ranked opponent at McKale Center since 2009, according to the team.

The Badgers came into the game on a six-game winning streak, including a win over then-No. 3 Marquette.

Arizona is 3-0 against ranked opponents including Duke and Michigan State, and the tests will keep coming. The Wildcats get No. 4 Purdue next Saturday followed by Alabama and No. 11 Florida Atlantic before the Pac-12 schedule begins.

Arizona hasn’t been No. 1 in the AP Top 25 since an eight-week stint that ended in January 2014 under former coach Sean Miller. Coach Tommy Lloyd is in his third season after a long run as an assistant at Gonzaga, and his first two teams each spent multiple weeks inside the top five.

“Our guys were pretty locked in, focused and made it really tough on them,” Lloyd said. “All in all, really happy with our performance.”

Lloyd said last week that his team needed to embrace the high expectations of being a No. 1 team. The Badgers gave the Wildcats some fight early, but Arizona’s late first-half run is a sign that this could be a team that stays in the top spot for a while.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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